Improving Cognition-Memory with Chinese Medicine

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), thought, memory, and the mind are influenced by all five of the energetic elemental systems referred to as the Five Elements, or Five Phases, that encompass all mental-spiritual aspects of human beings. Therefore, understanding the nature of memory-loss or blocks in thought requires a dissection of the symptoms or patterns that present in each individual. However, the Mind, or Shen of Chinese medicine oversees memory, thinking, consciousness, insight, and is always indicated in issues of memory and conscious thought. For best outcomes using self-care, combine associated Aroma Acu-Sticks® to acu-points, topical remedies, and good lifestyle practices.

herb leaves

Acupressure for Sustaining and Restoring Memory and Brain Health

herb leaves


Patterns of Imbalance in Chinese Medicine that Impact Cognition-Memory

Aging and Memory-Loss

As we age we naturally become more and more Essence depleted, and Essence is the substance base of the mind. The Shen, Spleen, and Kidney energies are together responsible for our ability to memorize words, dates, names, and times. Tonic herbs work to re-enforce these energetic organ systems as we age.

Heart and the Mind (Shen)

Clear thinking depends on a strong Heart according to Chinese medicine. The Heart stores the evolving consciousness, or Shen, and emotional disorders of the mind are attributed to Shen disorders. The Heart houses the mind at night, and Heart imbalances can lead to or contribute to sleep disorders. Heart Blood is also important as a grounding substance for the mind, so Heart Blood Deficiency has an impact on sleep and emotional balance. The Shen is also responsible for our ideas that are projected through thoughts that gives our life purpose. The Heart, or Shen, is the only organ able to provide insights to our emotions, as the other organs cannot perceive emotional feelings.

Spleen and the Mind (Shen)

The Spleen stores knowledge, or Zhi, and ideation, or Yi. It is association with thinking, ideas, and studying, and can be damaged by too much study or work that requires concentration or intense intellectual work. If the Spleen is damaged, one may find she obsesses and re-hashes the same thought pattern over and over. If Spleen Qi Deficiency develops, Internal Dampness can develop creating a feeling of a foggy mind as Dampness blocks the free flow of Qi. While modern-day life gives us ample to worry about, excessive worry will damage the Spleen function and Heart.

Kidney and the Mind (Shen)

The Kidneys share the power of decision making with the Liver, as they house the Essence, or Jing, which is responsible for our acquired wisdom through life (along with the Shen). One cannot plan and make wise decisions without reflecting on past experiences and acquired knowledge. Additionally, the Kidney energetic organ system is responsible for our willpower, and one who lacks will cannot be decisive. If the Kidney is deficient, there is often fear, anxiety, and panic disorders. The Kidneys also assist the Mind in recollections of memory.

Liver and the Mind (Shen)liver detox remedy with essential oils

The Liver stores the primitive memories, or Po, and the subconscious or the Hun; it houses the intelligence of the cells, or our instinctual memories. The Liver empowers us to plan and envision our future. When the Liver Qi is not flowing well and generates Heat, the Liver impacts our wisdom and we can become destructive. Additionally, Liver Heat and Stagnation greatly affect the mind creating anger, frustration, and a feeling of dissatisfaction. Ongoing emotional stress can lead to Liver Qi Stagnation and agitation.

herb leaves

Deficient-Excess Patterns of the Mind

Another way to delineate patterns of thought would be through Deficiency and Excess. Someone who tends to suffer from Deficient patterns would forget words, pictures, or dates and would not be able to learn through rote memory and would learn better with association. Someone who had generally Excess imbalances would tend to talk a lot, quoting sources for facts and figures. In extreme cases, they would have a tendency to take credit for others work and distort the truth.

Deficient-Excess Comparisons


Inferiority complex-Egotistical/self-admiration
Indecisiveness-Cunning with lack of ethics

While organ-level imbalances can cause emotional imbalances, the opposite is true as strong emotions can damage the organs. Emotions associated to individual organs include: Lungs and grief; Kidneys and fear; Liver and anger; Heart and sadness; Spleen and worry. All strong emotions will impact the Heart. Ancestral Qi, or a genetic/familial disposition to an organ imbalance or emotional disposition is also a causative factor in thinking and the Mind.

herb leaves


Huang Q, Luo D, Chen L, Liang FX, Chen R. Effectiveness of Acupuncture for Alzheimer's Disease: An Updated Systematic Review and Meta-analysisCurr Med Sci. 2019;39(3):500-511. doi:10.1007/s11596-019-2065-8

Jia Y, Zhang X, Yu J, et al. Acupuncture for patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease: a randomized controlled trial. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2017;17(1):556. Published 2017 Dec 29. doi:10.1186/s12906-017-2064-x

Cheng H, Yu J, Jiang Z, Zhang X, Liu C, Peng Y, Chen F, Qu Y, Jia Y, Tian Q, et al. Acupuncture improves cognitive deficits and regulates the brain cell proliferation of SAMP8 mice. Neurosci Lett. 2008;432(2):111–116. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2007.12.009.
Zhao L, Jia Y, Yan D, Zhou C, Han J, Yu J. Aging-related changes of triose phosphate isomerase in hippocampus of senescence accelerated mouse and the intervention of acupuncture. Neurosci Lett. 2013;542:59–64. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2013.03.002.
Zhou J, Peng W, Xu M, Li W, Liu Z. The effectiveness and safety of acupuncture for patients with Alzheimer disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Medicine (Baltimore). 2015;94(22):e933. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000000933
Lee J, Eun S, Kim J, Lee JH, Park K. Differential Influence of Acupuncture Somatosensory and Cognitive/Affective Components on Functional Brain Connectivity and Pain Reduction During Low Back Pain State. Front Neurosci. 2019;13:1062. Published 2019 Oct 4. doi:10.3389/fnins.2019.01062
Leung, M. C., Yip, K. K., Lam, C. T., Lam, K. S., Lau, W., Yu, W. L., Leung, A. K., & So, K. F. (2013). Acupuncture improves cognitive function: A systematic review. Neural regeneration research8(18), 1673–1684.

Press-Sandler O, Freud T, Volkov I, Peleg R, Press Y. Aromatherapy for the Treatment of Patients with Behavioral and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia: A Descriptive Analysis of RCTs. J Altern Complement Med. 2016 Jun;22(6):422-8. doi: 10.1089/acm.2015.0186. Epub 2016 May 9. PMID: 27159213. 

This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.